When Lewisville adopted its 2025 plan, which included an initiative to go as green as possible, internal services manager Francis Mascarenhas knew that meant shifting the city fleet to hybrid and electric vehicles as much as possible.

The thing was, nobody wanted one.

“Everybody said, ‘oh, this is small, I can’t fit my computer in this,’” he said.

Enter the Nissan Leaf. Mascarenhas got two of the vehicles on loan and sent them out to each department with instructions to try them for a few days. The electric cars won city employees over department by department, and soon, Mascarenhas was directed to buy four of them. From there, he said he started pushing hybrids and smaller-engined vehicles to replace larger cars.

One of two Nissan Leafs purchased by the city this year, which are the sixth and seventh in city service. The Leaf is the car that first convinced city staff that going electric was a possibility. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

That was 2014. Last April, the city approved the purchase of two more Leafs. They are two of 24 green and downsized vehicle purchases for the 2018 fiscal year, which will bring the total number of green and downsized vehicles in the city fleet to 45 just just four years after the green initiative was passed. The city fleet contains 348 total vehicles.

They’ve done this largely by replacing old vehicles, instead of making new purchases — every vehicle purchase the city approves carries with it a replacement fund, and vehicles are replaced based on a point system. Every time Mascarenhas has needed to replace a vehicle since 2014, he’s looked to see if there’s a more efficient vehicle that can do the same thing.

Mascarenhas said the city saved 16,461 gallons of fuel between 2014 and 2017 by switching to green and downsized cars.

Part of the process of shifting to a greener fleet was finding uses for vehicles with the limitations imposed by electric and hybrid vehicles — the hybrids are typically less powerful than gasoline vehicles, and electric cars come with a fixed range per charge. But Mascarenhas and public services director Keith Marvin have found that for many jobs, all you really need on a vehicle is wheels and a paint job identifying it as an official city vehicle.

“We’ve got health inspectors driving those that go from restaurant to restaurant doing health inspections,” Marvin said. “No need for them to carry cumbersome gear or anything like that, so that small compact electric vehicle, very economical to drive, yet still well-marked and identified as a city vehicle, that’s a prime use for that.”

The city owns and operates four Gasboy gas stations, which electronically track every drop of gasoline that goes into every vehicle. City vehicles can only be filled up at these stations. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

When hybrid or electric vehicles really won’t do the job, the city has been going for smaller engined vehicles. The 4-cylinder Chevy Colorado, which the city will own 13 of by the end of the fiscal year, has slowly been replacing the 6-cylinder Ford F-150 and 8-cylinder F-250 trucks with little reduction in functionality.

“They are smaller engine for same capacity, same size, so we started buying those,” Mascarenhas said.

Mascarenhas keeps a tight eye — down to a tenth of a gallon — on city gas usage with Gasboy vehicle tracking software, a package designed specifically for city fleets. City vehicles that use gas fill up at specialized gasboy pumping stations, which keep track of exactly how much gas goes in, allowing the city to know exactly how much gas each vehicle uses in addition to how far it goes and a host of other data points.

“He [Mascarenhas] could pull up any vehicle and tell you how many miles it has on it, how many hours it has on it, what the cost per mile to operate that vehicle is, what department’s using it, how old it is, all of that stuff, anything you’d want to know about any particular vehicle, he’s got it all in his computer,” Marvin said. “It’s really a great thing that he’s done for the city.”

The city’s efforts toward a greener fleet were almost immediately recognized. Lewisville was awarded with the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ bronze fleet award in 2015, and then again in 2017. The fleet awards are non-competitive — Lewisville was one of 11 bronze fleets last year. Mascarhenas said he hopes to break through as one of a handful of silver city fleets in 2018 and, eventually, to build the first gold fleet in the Metroplex.

The city’s annual gas usage has dropped sharply since 2011. Francis Mascarenhas estimates the city has saved more than 16,000 gallons of fuel between 2014, when it shifted to buying more environmentally friendly vehicles, and 2017. (Graphic courtesy City of Lewisville)

As the fleet rapidly changes around it, city-owned Leafs are still changing minds, like that of materials management specialist Tim Yatko. Yatko uses one of the Leafs for work, but says his or his wife’s next personal vehicle will probably be electric because of his experience with the work vehicle.

“I love it. It’s quiet, it’s fast when I need it to be,” he said. “When you see these big old honking trucks and things like that, but this little car has as much power or more.”

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